I love to listen to calls on Dave Ramsey's show on Friday because that is the day when people call to scream "WE'RE DEBT FREE!" I completely empathize with the sentiment of wanting to make that statement. My only problem with making it, though, is that people make it before they truly are. They don't consider having a mortgage as not being debt free. I definitely consider my mortgage when thinking about debt, because it weighs on me more than any other debt I have ever had. Looking at a payment breakdown and seeing well over half the principal and interest going to interest, and then another chunk going to escrow, it feels like the payments will never end. I hate the idea of being a slave to anyone or anything, and debt makes me feel like a slave. So I want to call and screams "WE ONLY OWE ON THE HOUSE!" in a few weeks, but that doesn't sound nearly as powerful. So, my phone call on debt freedom will just have to wait.
How long will it wait? I now have three timelines outlined for our mortgage payoff. We can live reasonably well, pay a lot extra, and be done with it in just about four years. Eight years to pay off a thirty-year mortgage feels pretty good, and not suffering too badly to do it sounds great. But somehow I didn't feel like we were really getting in the mindset of a Total Money Makeover if we had a lot of nonessential spending still built into our budget, so I examined it again. This time, I came up with a timeline of around three years, which requires us to avoid spending money on a home improvement project we had in mind until we're done, and generally cuts out any excess above necessities, a small entertainment budget, and two vacations. Still, I wanted to see if I could come up with a way to break the three-year barrier. So I reduced the spending to essentials, one inexpensive vacation a year (think, visiting relatives), and all our entertainment budget stripped down to only include one major fun thing a month that we have committed to doing, but not much of anything else.
Two years and three months came back. I checked my inputs, thinking that couldn't really be true. Still, the chart showed two years and three months. Could we live like no one else for two years with the goal being to live like no one else forever after (across the bottom of every page in Dave Ramsey's book it says "live like no one else, so you can live like no one else"). Somehow, I think I could. I have been a college student living on a tight budget twice. My wife has lived on a tight budget much more than I have. Our kids probably wouldn't notice much if we cut a lot of the excess out of our lifestyle for a couple of years, and it would be good for them to see us do it. Children who see their parents pinch pennies learn to do it themselves in many cases. If we teach them why, they certainly have a chance to understand the value of sacrifice, which is a good lesson for anyone to learn.
Can we do it? Can we really pay off our house that fast? My mind says "Just Do It!" like a Nike Ad. My heart worries for my wife and children and the things they'll give up (my own sacrifices are much easier to me than anything I can ask of them). Still, two years compared to fifteen or twenty feels like a wonderfully short time. Can we do it? Here's hoping.